Old Embers

Early this morning, I took a look at some sites I hardly ever look at. I remember those frenzied days of 2010 to 2012 when I was in the TAC and thought “Anglicanorum coitusinterruptus” (sorry, I couldn’t resist it) was about us and not various American and English Anglican bishops who stayed in the Establishment until their opportunity came up. Oh yes, I remember Cardinal Kasper’s analogy of the train leaving the station, and its veracity coming to light as the deception from all sides became clear. I was wrong, but no one other than Dr William Tighe and a few others could get over the message that the game concerned men who were dealing with the Vatican from about 1993.

I used not to be very kind with John Bruce who runs the St Mary’s Hollywood: The Cold Case File blog. Mr Bruce is mostly concerned with St Mary of the Angels church in Los Angeles, the subject of litigation and a continuing lawsuit. It is not exactly on my patch, and I am neither interested nor concerned. He naturally has a gripe with the ACA and the TAC and with Continuing Anglicanism in general. He became a Roman Catholic a few years ago. To his credit, he went to a run-of-the-mill parish and became an ordinary RC churchgoer. That also is a matter on which I cannot and will not judge.

There are some recent entries of some interest.

Would A Merged ACA and APA Stay In The TAC? One may speculate, but any movement towards healing the decades-old divisions between various continuing Anglican Churches can only be a good thing. The Anglican Catholic Church website reports:

The College of Bishops of the Original Province met October 16th and 17th in Shelton, Connecticut, where they took important steps toward the reunification of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions. In addition to voting to receive former ACC Bishop Thomas Kleppinger back into the Church, a report on Validation of Orders was approved, paving the way towards closer relations with the Anglican Church in America (ACA) and Anglican Province in America (APA). Reception of a new diocese in the Republic of South Africa was conditionally approved and representatives were appointed to respond to a request for dialog from a large group of Anglicans in Burundi. For more information on this and related matters, see the upcoming issue of The Trinitarian.

The American religious world is different from anywhere else, and it is difficult to appreciate from someone at my lowly level as a simple priest off the beaten track. As I say, anything positive is good and should be encouraged. Perhaps Mr Bruce would like Roman Catholicism to be the only way to go. We don’t agree.

My Bishop and I have often quipped about the TAC’s news being that there is no news. I am still recovering from the shocks I went through as I went through the time from the Portsmouth College of Bishops meeting of October 2007 to the resignation of Archbishop Hepworth in 2012. I still thank God for my fresh start in the ACC and the healthy air of truth and reality. As Fr Jonathan Munn once said to me, the ACC is what it says on the jar. Strawberry jam is not mango pickle! I still find it amazing how everything seemed so coherent in those years, then – bang! – nothing but whimpering embers. True, some of those men I met in Portsmouth are valiantly trying to patch it all up and reconstruct, just as we have had to do since the Bishops’ Brawl of the late 1990’s. So, if I comment on anything here, it isn’t intended to do down anyone who is genuinely trying to reconstruct in a spirit of truth and integrity.

We wait to see if anything will be rebuilt from the side of Archbishop Prakash. Bishop Gill in South Africa apparently is doing some good things down there. I was surprised to see photos of Mass facing the people in his ad clerum, but values are different with that culture that isn’t ours. All our Churches are loaded with histories of human sin and pride. We who are left have to pick up the pieces, unless we are going to be looking for “one true churches”, pretending that everything is well, or giving up altogether as some have. Mr Bruce goes on about Archbishop Falk being the stumbling stone, but do not others want to cut off the head of the Pope Emeritus also? Imperfection is everywhere!

Is Anything At All Happening In The “Worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion”? This is a little more interesting for those of us who live far away from California. Perhaps it is good that things are quieter than in those days when Archbishop Hepworth and I would talk over Skype and I would hear him relate his good times with his friends in Roman high places. I was kicked off The Anglo-Catholic in August 2010 for dissenting from the party line, which challenged the Hepworth hermeneutic which turned out to be blindingly illusory. I believe in a priest’s loyalty to his superior, but things went a little far as he drove his particular train over the cliff, or his ship into the hurricane, choose your analogy as you prefer…

How is the TAC since its decapitation? South Africa looks quite healthy, apart from the fact that Fr Smuts has not published anything for a while – which may be for any reason. I won’t speculate. The ACA continues more or less as before, with only a small number of priests having gone over to the Ordinariate. England – that’s nearer home, and I might be accused of saying bad things in a spirit of competition. They now have a Bishop and their website says what it says. We have fewer parishes and places of worship in the ACC, but ours seem to represent a handful of people and a priest, at least a visible chapel of some kind. The TAC in Australia seems not to be going well going by snippets of information, I get from time to time. The Anglican Catholic Church of Canada has just published a new newsletter. All that sounds quite positive. I gather that their present priority is to redefine the role of the Primacy, to make sure that what happened with Archbishop Hepworth never happens again. Canada? There will be a future if we can all be working towards unity and getting our houses into order. We have been working hard and so have they.

The evidence doesn’t entirely support Mr Bruce’s pessimistic line based on his unfortunate experience at his local church, but there are sobering points in the history. Also, I do not judge a Church by its small size. Many legitimate Oriental Churches are smaller than we are – just a little older in their institution…

The history of the Anglicanorum coetibus event brought out the fact that Cardinal Kasper was the most honest of the Roman lot, and the transition from Benedict XVI to Francis has also peeled back many layers of hyperbole. Fr Hunwicke allows a certain amount of information to get through from the Ordinariate point of view, but his perspective is not typical. Archbishop Hepworth proved to be either extremely deluded or wicked. The question of his having been sexually abused as an adult, which emerged in September 2011, was childishly transparent. It was found that his accusations against Monsignor Dempsey were without foundation. That was the end and a new beginning for those in the TAC who did not hitch a ride on the Kasper Express. Smoke and mirrors, and a lot of noise. I was being interviewed by French traditionalist journalists and even by someone from the official ecumenical establishment in France. Now I don’t exist, and my life is much quieter and more true.

The Anglo-Catholic is now dead, though the archives remain, and Christian Campbell has another blog where he shares his love of Celtic culture. I killed my old English Catholic blog shortly after setting this one up. The real reason was my collaboration with Deborah Gyapong who was tending towards a kind of conservative Roman Catholicism with which I cannot relate. I didn’t want to do with her as Christian Campbell did with me. I just deleted the blog, and left some remnants in The TAC Archive for historical record.

The embers that had to die have met their demise because they offended against truth and common sense. I was a part of this deception through my excessive loyalty to Archbishop Hepworth. I attended the Portsmouth meeting of October 2007, and it all seemed surreal. How would Rome deal with that motly bunch? Was Benedict XVI really a revolutionary Pope who broke with all convention, whilst old Cardinal Ratzinger went by the book in his old job? Did we really think it was all about us? We had no idea about the secret goings on with the Forward in Faith bishops, and they kept the lid on things almost until the day when the English and American ordinariates were actually set up. Rome threw a sop to Australia by giving the job to Bishop Entwistle who had been a pukka Anglican clergyman. Rome could have been more transparent, and it would have saved a lot of heartache.

As I see things now, if Archbishop Hepworth really wanted to take the TAC over to Rome, he should have resigned at the October 2007 meeting in Portsmouth to pass his position to someone more canonically regular – not divorced and remarried and not a former Roman Catholic. At most, he could have led the Romeward movement being clear that he was intending to resign as a cleric and become a Roman Catholic layman once the process was complete. But, how does a man rid himself of his priestly vocation, however compromised by canonical irregularity? More information could have been given on the basis of Dr Tighe’s work on continuing Anglicanism and Rome – and then a clear separation of the camps between those who wished to join a future structure for Anglicans and those who wished to stay in their local Continuing Anglican Churches. The whole thing took about 3 years to buckle apart and fracture, with Archbishop Hepworth saying It’s going to be all right! The incredible thing is that the TAC episcopate stayed together throughout without doing something about Archbishop Hepworth who should have resigned in 2007. Deception came from our side as much as from Rome (which is not unusual for them) and the Forward in Faith bishops who were nice to the TAC (inviting Archbishop Hepworth to talk at the FiF general assembly in London). What made me trust Archbishop Hepworth was the loyalty of all the other bishops.

The past is in the past. I believe the TAC as presently constituted has become a dinosaur, but I can see reconciliation and healing happening at a local level in the local Churches, especially in America. We still need to read Mr Bruce with a big pinch a salt, and we need to move on. I did so when I was accepted into the English diocese of the ACC and let them take their time to get to know me. I am encouraged by the complete transparency of our Bishop and clergy, by our slow growth through the reception of new priests and lay readers. Every little step counts in our work in the Lord’s devastated vineyard. The old dinosaurs have died, and it is our responsibility to move on and till the ground for the future.

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5 Responses to Old Embers

  1. Does anyone know what the status of the Province of Christ the King is vis-a-vis these other jurisdictions, including the ACC? APCK seems to be conspicuous by its absence.

  2. ed pacht says:

    I’ve not heard anything to imply that the link of intercommunion and cooperation between APCK and ACC has been weakened in any way. UECNA, on the other hand, seems to be expressing some discomfort with its part in the triad. Restoring unity of communion among Continuers will, it seems, be a rocky and hesitant process, but I remain hopeful.

    • I would have thought that prospects would be brighter with the more extreme Anglo-Papalists having gone to the Ordinariates. We English tend to be quite “baroque” (I am more “English” in my style, but still use the vestments I used in my “baroque phase”) but we are in our hearts Anglicans and not Roman Catholics. That being said, it is more important to discuss theology than liturgical trappings! Thus, I would hope that a more moderate Anglo-Catholicism would go down better with Prayer Book Catholics and everyone except the real Protestants. I have a lot of esteem for Archbishop Peter Robinson, but it is a shame he feels so awkward with the higher-church folk. All the same, there are some encouraging things like mutual recognition of Orders between the main Continuing Churches, and that can only serve to increase mutual trust and good will.

  3. Sandra says:

    Australia’s doing all right–rebuilding, slowly in some places but in others more quickly than we would ever have expected. We put out information, locally, and sometimes it results in people showing an interest. Apropos of your post about ‘secrets’ above–in my line of work it’s more a matter of ‘confidences’. I realise that there was, for a time, a lot of interest shown in the TAC in various parts, and we were roundly criticised for not posting all our business on the internet for people in far flung parts to pick over–and pick on. Our internal housekeeping stuff is just that, and it stays internal, and confidential. I don’t want to pick through your dirty washing–and I’m sure you are not at all interested in mine. We don’t need–and don’t want–controversy. Too much of that in the recent past. We don’t need to be the biggest, or coolest, or wealthiest church on the block–we just need to proclaim the truth of Christ and extend a welcome to those who would hear it. To be honest, we’re not really all that interesting–it is the Gospel that is interesting.

    • I am on the Council of Advice of my Diocese and I don’t discuss internal affairs on the internet either. I wasn’t particularly referring to the TAC in Australia, more to those groups that use secrecy in the way I have analysed more or less well. That being said, a Church can do things like in the 1970’s with roneotyped papers, or if it keeps a website or a blog, it could do well to keep things up to date. For example, the latest news from the Torres Strait seems to date from 2003 or 2004. But as you say, it is none of my business.

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